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School weighs in on Alabama Ahead Act

Bill passage would mean out with the old textbooks and in with the new electronic devices.
Staff members at Ashford High School say digital textbooks would help the school continue preparing students for the real world.
Staff members at Ashford High School say digital textbooks would help the school continue preparing students for the real world.
The State Senate passed the Alabama Ahead Act with a 19-11 vote on March 6, 2014.
The State Senate passed the Alabama Ahead Act with a 19-11 vote on March 6, 2014.
The State Senate passed the Alabama Ahead Act last week, which would improve an existing law passed in 2012. 

It’s a bill that would bring some schools into a new era, trading out paper textbooks for digital ones.

Supporters of the bill say it would bring schools up-to-date and cut costs.  

Schools would have the option of participating, and some are all for the changes. 

"Students are far more familiar with electronics than people my age.  Because they were raised with them, they're not afraid of them,” said Ashford High School Principal Bubba Odom.  "It will help them in their future, business, technology, any form that they will be dealing with in their life.”

The bill would provide up to 100 million dollars for schools to buy digital textbooks, laptops and tablets.

"You want them to be learning the latest equipment, so you don’t want to be teaching programs that are six or seven years old, and then you send them out into the world, and the job they go to has brand new equipment," said Rodney Sparks, a business education instructor at Ashford High School.

The state would issue bonds to cover 75% of the costs.  School systems would have to cover 25%. 

But funding could still pose a major challenge for some school boards.

"Ours would be well over $800,000.00 for local funding," Odom said.  "Funding is going to be the primary issue that must be addressed.  I can't say I'm going to do it when there are no funds to do it."
 
But school administrators are concerned the bill doesn't everything into consideration, like who will foot the bill for damaged equipment when parents can't, or putting new technical staff on the payroll.

But for students, a change to all digital would be well worth it.

"It would take a heavy load off of our backs, because our book bags weigh almost up to 20 pounds," Ashford High School student Alista Eiley said.

"You don't have to wait for somebody to bring it back, or if you have a computer at home you can access it and home and then everybody can get their work done," said Kathryn Grace, another Ashford High student.

The Senate voted 19-11 to pass the bill.  It's now in the hands of the House Finance and Taxation Education Committee.

Once the House committee reviews the bill, then the House will vote on it.  If it passes, it will take effect this fall. 
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